Penguins hang on, move on

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins scored five times in the first 7:16 of the second period, then watched the Providence Bruins furiously chip away before holding on for a 5-4 win in Game 7 of the teams’ Eastern Conference semifinal series on Wednesday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

With their second Game 7 win over Providence in as many postseasons, the Penguins earn a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals and a date with the St. John’s IceCaps.

Wilkes-Barre’s offense found the net just once on 47 shots in the previous four periods before scoring five times in 5:59 early in the second in Game 7.

The Penguins opened the scoring 1:17 into the second period when Anton Zlobin‘s centering pass hit off the skate of Bruins defenseman Chris Casto and went in past Niklas Svedberg for his fifth goal of the postseason.

With the Penguins working on their first power play of the game, Conor Sheary finished off a nifty passing play from Nick Drazenovic and Chuck Kobasew to make it 2-0 at 3:24. It was Sheary’s fifth goal of the series and extended his point-scoring streak to six games.

The Penguins then struck for two goals in 13 seconds, both coming with the teams skating four-on-four. First, Jayson Megna made it 3-0 at 5:22, snapping his first goal of the playoffs over the glove of Svedberg off a rush with Harry Zolnierczyk. Then Brian Gibbons got behind the Providence defense and slipped a shot past Svedberg to make it a 4-0 Penguins lead at 5:35.

Malcolm Subban replaced Svedberg, but Wilkes-Barre kept coming and Brendan Mikkelson‘s shot found its way through traffic for a power-play goal and a seemingly insurmountable 5-0 lead at 7:16.

But Providence, which scored four quick goals in both Game 1 and Game 3, began to stage a comeback with 53.9 seconds left in the middle frame when defenseman David Warsofsky scored shorthanded to make it 5-1 at the second intermission.

The Bruins cut the deficit to 5-2 when Ryan Spooner‘s long wrist shot eluded Peter Mannino just 23 seconds into the third period. It was Spooner’s sixth goal and league-leading 14th point of the postseason.

Alexander Khokhlachev then scored twice to pull Providence to within 5-4. He buried a centering pass from Warsofsky with 13:17 left, then crashed the net and banged home a rebound of Spooner’s shot on a power play with 10:05 to go, his seventh goal of the series and ninth of the playoffs.

Providence continued to press, and with less than six minutes remaining, Alexander Fallstrom fanned on an attempt with an open net and a chance to tie. Mannino denied former Penguin Nick Johnson from in close about a minute later and stopped Seth Griffith with about 90 seconds to play, and then held down the fort for 58 seconds with the Bruins on a 6-on-4 advantage with Subban pulled for an extra attacker late.

Shots on goal finished 27-25 in the Penguins’ favor, despite a 13-3 edge for Providence in the third period.

Mannino (6-4) made 21 saves for the win. Subban (2-2) was saddled with the loss despite stopping 11 of 12 shots in relief of Svedberg (11 saves on 15 shots).

Eastern Conference Semifinals – Series “J” (best-of-7) 
6-W-B/Scranton Penguins vs. 7-Providence Bruins
| Series Snapshot
Game 1 – Fri., May 9 – Providence 4, W-B/SCRANTON 0 
Game 2 – Sat., May 10 – W-B/SCRANTON 6, Providence 1 
Game 3 – Wed., May 14 – W-B/Scranton 5, PROVIDENCE 4 (2OT)
Game 4 – Fri., May 16 – PROVIDENCE 3, W-B/Scranton 2 (OT)
Game 5 – Sat., May 17 – W-B/Scranton 3, PROVIDENCE 2
Game 6 – Mon., May 19 – Providence 4, W-B/SCRANTON 1
Game 7 – Wed., May 21 – W-B/SCRANTON 5, Providence 4